What do Macaroni Penguins Eat?

Macaroni penguins are one amongst the six species of crested penguins. They have distinct yellow-orange hair over the head; the eyes of macaroni penguins are red. They have pink feet and orange beak. Like any other penguin species, macaroni penguins are flightless carnivore birds. They prey on small aquatic animals.

Macaroni penguins live in Sub-Antarctic islands. They are the largely populated penguins which are estimated to be above 18 million individuals. Macaroni penguins are the biggest and heaviest penguins that reach about 70 cm tall and they were recorded diving to the depth of 100 meters with their dive lasting up to 2 minutes.

Macaroni penguin
Macaroni penguin

Diet List of Macaroni Penguins:

Small fish, krill and squid fall in the diet list of macaroni penguins. They hunt during the daytime and search for small fishes. Macaroni penguins are said to be consuming a large amount of krill than squid and fish.

Some of the species tend to stay in the shallow waters where few others spend time in finding the fish traveling for long distance. During their travel, they also prey on Para Themisto gauchidaudii, a crustacean of the Indian Ocean.

Habitat and Food:

They are endemic to Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands. They are found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the coasts of Chile and Argentina. While searching for foo they swim to the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, South of Brazil, and South Africa.

Macaroni penguins spend almost six months in the cold ocean in hunting the prey. They come to the land during the summer for breeding.

Macaroni penguins stay in the rocky cliffs of the water areas. Unlike other penguins, they don’t waddle rather, they hop. Due to their habitat in the cold regions, macaroni penguins forage throughout the day and night to find food for the chicks. Since the regions of their habitat contain a lot of crustaceans, macaroni penguins eat a lot of easily available krill that makes their major part of the diet.

Macaroni penguins in Cooper Bay South Georgia
Macaroni penguins in Cooper Bay South Georgia

Molting and Fasting:

During molting season, like other penguins, macaroni penguins fast for around four weeks until their new feathers grow. To survive in fasting season macaroni penguins need to store a lot of energy. So, they eat maximum when they get an opportunity in reaching the prey.

Stone and Their Diet:

Stone in the diet of macaroni penguins is a quite surprising fact. Not only macaroni penguin swallow stones but also other few crested penguins have been spotted swallowing stones.

They swallow stones sometimes large in numbers just because to help in digesting the shells of krill and hard parts of the prey. Some researchers also predict that when the penguins swallow the stones they can dive deeper due to the weight in the body.

The torpedo body shape of the penguins also supports them swimming in the ocean effortlessly.

Macaroni penguins have hooked shaped beak which can hold the prey with a strong grip and doesn’t allow to slide. Especially the hooked beak helps when the penguin hunts the small fishes.

Like other penguins, macaroni penguins also swallow the food in the ocean while swimming.


Since the physique of the macaroni penguins is bigger amongst the crested penguins; they require a good amount of nutrients that the body requires for the temperature. To maintain the body temperature and reduce the heat loss, macaroni penguins rely on meat.

Macaroni penguins eat small aquatic animals and don’t rest until they find enough food. The main diet of macaroni penguin includes krill. Since, there is overfishing, water pollution and the interruption made by the introduction of other land animals; they have become a vulnerable penguin species.


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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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